Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry - Review + Recipe

A couple of summers ago I read Kathleen Flinn's book Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good and I absolutely fell in love with it.  I loved Flinn's voice, I loved her family, and my mouth watered at her food descriptions.  I had basically been handed a copy of her 2nd book Kitchen Counter Cooking School and the reviews were so enthusiastic that I had also gotten a copy of her first book - The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry.  After reading Burnt Toast I swore that I was going to be starting her earlier books immediately.  I just couldn't wait to get to them.  And then of course I got distracted by other newer shinier books and am just now getting to this one more than a year later!

I love to cook but I don't have a long history of it.  When I was first married my husband did the bulk of the cooking but one summer he was on a business trip that was supposed to be 4 days and ended up being 3 weeks.  I hated having to go pick something up every night and the fact that I, a college educated reasonably intelligent woman, couldn't cook a simple meal started to annoy me so I became determined to learn how and than discovered that I enjoyed it.  But because of my not so standard start I don't feel like I really have the fundamentals down and wanted to take some basic cooking classes as well as being absolutely fascinated with what culinary school must be like.

This book was like following Flinn through her time as a student at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.  We feel out of our element right along with her as she accidentally sits in front of the Japanese interpreter at the introductory lecture, we stress during the presentations of her dishes during to the chefs, and we worry through the exams for Basic, Intermediate and Superior cuisine.  Along the way we are right along with her as she navigates life in Paris, makes friends, and develops her relationship with her boyfriend, Mike.

I absolutely adored how she did the chapters.  Each chapter is a different culinary lesson as well as a different thing that's going on in her non-school life.  Then of course it ends with a recipe - usually something she learned but always something that applied to the events of the chapter.  Flinn's voice is wonderful.  It's like catching up with friend who is going to culinary school.  She relays the events with a lot of humor and very little pretension.  I loved seeing the in-class politics and just the inner-workings of the school.  Am I planning on going to Le Cordon Bleu?  No, I don't see that in my future but I thoroughly enjoyed going through the coursework with Kathleen.

I also discovered this recipe for

Potage de Poulet aux Nouilles, ave de l'Ail et des Herbes
(Chicken Noodle Soup with Garlic and Herbs)

1 1/2 lbs chicken pieces, skin removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
2 large chopped carrots
2 stalks chopped celery
1/2 cup white wine
5 quarts chicken stock
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/2 bunch parsley, 1/2 bunch thyme, 3 bay leaves, tied together
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 ounces, wide noodles
1/2 teaspoon salt, a few cranks pepper
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley (optional)

Rinse the chicken under cold water; pat dry.  Trim any excess fat.  Set aside.
In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring regularly, until softened.  Add the white wine and stir the bottom to loosen any brown bits as it reduces by one half.  Add the stock.  Heat through.  Add the chicken.  Bring to a low boil, skimming fat and foam from the surface.  When it appears that no more skimming is necessary, drop the heat to a simmer and add the herbs.  Simmer partially covered for a half hour.  Add the garlic.  Simmer another half hour.  Remove the chicken from the soup with tongs.  Continue to simmer the liquid for a few moments while the chicken cools.  Remove the meat from the chicken and shred it into pieces and return to the pot.  Add the noodles and increase the heat to a gentle boil, then cook until soft.  Skim off any foam and check seasonings, adding salt and pepper as needed.  Remove tied herbs.  Stir in the parsley.  Makes enough for a couple of days with the flu.

Doesn't this sound good?  All herby and garlicy and comforting for those days you're feeling under the weather!  Though I'm not planning on waiting for illness to give this a recipe a try and I'm definitely not waiting another year and a half to read Flinn's 2nd book - A Kitchen Counter Cooking School.

Today I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads


  1. I liked this book much more than the Kitchen Counter book, but she sure packs a lot of information in a friendly style into her books. That soup sounds wonderful.

  2. I was thinking of making chicken soup yesterday, this recipe sounds good.
    I have her books on my TBR list must do something about that.

  3. So many good books about that cooking school! Julia Child, in "My Life in France" was I think more challenged. Your review makes it sound as if this is an interestingly organized book, and the recipe sounds really good.

    best... mae at

  4. I've only read Kitchen Counter Cooking School but I LOVED it. I learned quite a bit from it and still apply many of the lessons learned (like how to hold a knife!). When I was in college I loved watching cooking shows and would experiment quite a bit in the kitchen. Of course I don't always have time for that now, but I still love learning and would love to take classes one day--just for fun. I need to get my hands on this one!

  5. Great recipe, you sure are posting lots of good ones I am earmarking lately! I have not read her first book yet but want to.

  6. I really loved reading your first couple of paragraphs about the author and about your cooking experience. I just recently heard about the Burnt Toast book and have it coming from the library. How nice to learn there are even more good ones by the same author. It's cold and rainy here so a good pot of that Chicken Noodle Soup seems like a good idea. Thanks.

  7. We're doing her "Burn Toast Makes you Cry" for Cook the Books Club this round, and I'm looking forward to it. Somewhere in my future, I can visualize a cooking class, perhaps in Provance or Tuscany?

  8. This one really was like getting letters from a friend!

  9. I'm totally unfamiliar with this author, but after reading your review (and the comments) I want to read everything she has written!

  10. I like this one too. Have not yet got my hands on burnt toast! Cheers from Carole's Chatter!

  11. I guess that's where we differ; I do not care to further my none existent cooking skills. I cannot make a basic meal and could care less. LOL.
    I like that this takes place in Paris. Do you think for someone that doesn't care about the recipes but is okay with some food talk, but mostly interested in the travel portion would enjoy this?

  12. I loved both this book and Kitchen Counter Cooking School and I just recently started Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good (as Claudia & Vicki both mentioned) ;-) as I picked it as our Cook the Books April/May book--it's always helpful in getting me to get a book off by TBR pile!

    Please join us at CTB if you would like. Everyone is welcome. We read the book and post our thoughts and a dish inspired by it. The Burnt Toast official announcement will be up on the CTB site sometime tomorrow but here's a link to the blog:

    Aloha, Deb-Kahakai Kitchen

  13. That sounds like a really neat set up for it. I didn't totally fall in love with cooking until later either. I went home to help with a sick grandparent during my mid-20s and got suckered in while trying to feed a huge crowd every day. :D

  14. I haven't read anything by Kathleen Flinn, but I'm ready to run out and get a copy of The Sharper Your Knife . .. Cooking, Paris, good writing, and good recipes: who could ask for more? Thanks for introducing me to her.

  15. Why is it taking me so long to read this book?! It's been on my wish list for years. Great review.

  16. This sounds like one of the better cooking/food memoirs I've come across! I'm not particularly into reading them myself, though I do enjoy cooking and baking at times. But if I ever decide to start reading them, this one will definitely be on the list.

  17. I've got a kid with a cold, and the chicken soup is just perfect. It's a good help for a cold.

  18. I made this on the weekend and it was great, thanks. I've put a link to it on this week's Weekend Cooking linkup.